The Project is the New Resume
A successful creative career doesn’t happen overnight. It’s the product of intelligent planning, dedicated execution, and passionate showcasing.
If you’re a creative freelancer, or you’re trying to start a side hustle, nobody cares where you went to school. Nobody cares about your great, unexecuted ideas. In today’s noisy market, standing still and waving your arms, saying “choose me” doesn’t work. Businesses that could potentially hire you care about the kind of work that you create.
If you want to be hired for a certain type of work, the absolute best way to have it happen is to create that type of work, and then show it to the people that can hire you to do it again.
The project is the new resume.
I spent years taking the projects that were given to me, and not truly setting myself up to be hired for the ones that I wanted.
It wasn’t until I spent the time to get really clear about what I wanted my career to be - how I wanted it to look and feel - that I was able to start creating the portfolio that would eventually get me hired for the kind of work I wanted to create.
But once I created that portfolio, it was like a light switch was flipped on. All of a sudden, each project I got hired for was closer and closer to the kind of projects that I dreamed of, the kind of projects that I knew I was perfect for “if only they could see it”.
The thing is, we can’t expect the people hiring us to take a big leap of faith and hire us for something “we know we’re perfect for”. There is too much pressure riding on everyone to deliver a homerun, every single time. So we have to prove to them that we’re going to deliver, and the simplest way to prove ourselves is by creating a portfolio that is as close as possible to what we’re looking to be hired for.
Take stock of where you stand today. Pull up your website. Are you completely content with what you see? Is the work that you’re showing in your portfolio the kind of work you want to be hired for?
If so, congrats. Stop reading and start marketing.
But if you’re still hungry, if there are more creative projects that you want to undertake to grow your portfolio, read on.
You have to investigate what works best for you, and then lean into that. It takes energy and effort. And no one can do it for you.
How do you get there? Follow these steps:
1. Pick a goal.
2. Break it into projects.
3. Break the project into action items.
4. Do one action item.
Now you've taken a step forward.
Keep in mind, goals should be something you can control. For example, creating a portfolio and sharing it with potential clients is different than setting a goal to do a photoshoot for Levi’s. The first thing you can control, the second you can’t.
Goals work like magnets. We cast them out into the future, and they pull us towards them. Oftentimes the projects we are most scared to tackle are the most important ones. It’s terrifying to commit to something new, to taking your career to the next level - because it’s a creative risk. Because it means pushing into uncharted territory.
We think of your freelance career like a series of mountains. Each project you tackle, paid or unpaid, is a journey to a different peak exposing a different view of how far you’ve come and where you want to go.
We've created a visualization exercise for the members of Art of Freelance, but we're giving it away here. It will help you create clear goals for yourself professionally, and personally.
Mathieu Young is a professional freelance photographer and director who has served the giants (American Express, AT&T, Bose, Samsung, Showtime, HBO, Paramount Pictures) and won awards for social enterprise campaigns in Tanzania, Kenya, Cambodia, and Nicaragua. He is the founder of Art of Freelance and Kensington Presents, a pop-up concert series in collaboration with California State Parks.